I met some representatives from People First Tameside at Tameside Radio during Hate Crime Week when they were trying to raise awareness of the terrible toll of Hate Crime on people’s lives. I asked if I could come and volunteer for them as they have lots of groups throughout the week for Adults with Learning Disabilities. They were more than happy for me to come along to the groups and I chose a cooking group as my first place to volunteer. They have a large kitchen area in what was once a nightclub in Ashton. I had the weirdest sensation that I had been in the nightclub in the past many years ago. It looked very different now. Lots of people were busy cooking away and DJ Terry was playing music in the corner of the room. I put on an apron and hair net, washed my hands and was ready for action. As it was Comic Relief one of the volunteers was making cupcakes to raise money. There was a weird moment when I was being supported by Kulmant a volunteer to make icing and I wasn’t sure if I was a volunteer or the person being supported. I instead realised that I was volunteering to be supported by someone who was volunteering. Some of the volunteers at the groups have learning difficulties and others don’t. People First would like to have more volunteers who could teach something like baking or arts and crafts, skills that can be learnt and shared. In the other half of the kitchen was busy with people covering fish in breadcrumbs, making chips and cooking a crumble. The group decide what to cook and then prepare a meal that they then eat and share with others. We added little red noses that Kulmant had made at home to our cupcakes and then helped plate up. I have got to say the food was amazing, it was a menu of cod goujons, potato wedges and minted peas or in other words home cooked fish, chips and peas. I helped to clear up and then plated the desserts. I had to divide a small crumble in what seemed like fifty portions while Sophie who was on a placement tried not to burn the custard. Sophie told me that she was at college and was hoping to go to university to train as a mental health nurse. We sold our Comic Relief cakes for a pound each and then went upstairs for the next group.
This time it was a ‘train the trainers’ group which was preparing people with learning difficulties to go into schools and run sessions on Hate Crime awareness so that Primary School children can understand what it is like to have a disability. We watched some CCTV footage of David Ashew who was a victim of Hate Crime in Hattersley and then had a heart attack. An inquest into David’s death found that he was subjected to 30 years of ‘torment’ and was unlawfully killed after he collapsed 10 minutes after an ‘altercation’ with youths outside his home. Members of the group had known him and they too knew what it was like to be a victim of, at least cruel comments, if not Hate Crime as well. David was subjected to name calling, stone throwing and youths climbing into his garden. Even though the videos were short and had no sound it was awful to see how distressed he was in his own garden. Mencap, as part of its ‘don’t stick it stop it’ campaign, found that 9 out of 10 children with a learning disability have been bullied and 6 out of 10 have been physically hurt by bullies. DJ Terry explained that people had said horrible things about him while he was working as a DJ in a local pub.
We broke into smaller groups and I supported my group in deciding which video to show the young people so they could understand how someone might feel. Paul and Adrian were in my group and they took notes about what was happening to present back to the main group. After the training some of the group proudly showed me the feedback from the primary school children so far. The comment sheets said the children felt they knew more about what it was like to have a disability and they thought those who ran the sessions were confident and did very well with reading and speaking. It was lovely to read that the children were seeing what I was seeing, that those with a learning disability are people first.